MATCH REPORT: Sheffield Steelers 4 Belfast Giants 3

Denied: Joey Talbot's effort is kept out by Belfast.        Pictures: Rik Rayner
Denied: Joey Talbot's effort is kept out by Belfast. Pictures: Rik Rayner
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STEELERS are three games from lifting the Elite League title after a nail-biting win over Belfast last night.

The victory - against a side which outplayed them for at least half the game - puts them three points clear over third-place Giants, and two over Cardiff. Win all the remaining games and the title is player coach Ben Simon’s.

Against the Giants, they did it the hard way - building a two goal lead and then going behind. Steelers left their best to last though, ripping into the opponents in the final 12 minutes, scoring twice.

Belfast certainly know the best route to Sheffield’s goal, they had hit the back of Ervins Mustukovs net 20 times before the teams lined up at iceSheffield. They were unfortunate not to add to that tally after two minutes when Brandon Benedict shaved the outside of the post.

Gradually, the hosts asserted themselves, going ahead on the Power Play, Ashley Tait embarrassing Stephen Murphy with a near-post punt which Joey Talbot converted.

Sheffield excelled defensively, killing a 5-on-3 penalty, Jerramie Domish and Steve Munn working miracles and Mustukovs parrying a Michael Jacobsen effort. But Giants dominated offensively, outshooting the hosts in the first session, 16-6.

A second scrappy goal on the edge of the crease, this time from Jeff Legue, delivered a flattering 2-0 lead, almost extended when Talbot hit the post.

Belfast got back in the game on their second 5-on-3 penalty, Mike Hoffman deflecting home off Mark Thomas.

With their team taking too many penalties, the crowd got behind their heroes, cheering every pass, penalty kill and occasional attack.

But a poor pass from Mustukovs gave Giants a gift, Jeff Mason cannoning a shot off Sheffield’s bar.

Simon took a penalty at the start of the second and Belfast levelled, Brett Hemingway back-handing into the roof of the net before Jacobsen made it 2-3.

Sheffield finally managed to apply some sustained pressure and were rewarded when Talbot tucked the puck under Murphy to level. And Rob Globke, returning from the sin bin, played a superb pass in for Jason Hewitt to complete Sheffield’s comeback.